Grandmother and Grandchild in garden


Grandmother and grandchild in garden. Photocoloured by Val Erde.

Above, coloured version.

Below, original one.

Grandmother and grandchild in garden... monochrome image that goes with other photograph in post, the other is photocoloured by Val Erde.

When I bought this photo, the seller described it as ‘Mother and Daughter, Garden, 3 Adelaide Terrace, 1912’. I think, though, that they are a grandmother and granddaughter. I wonder where it was? I found one ‘Adelaide Terrace’ in the UK and one in Perth, Australia. Do you know of one?

It’s rare to see such an informally posed child in a photo of this date. The grandmother – I’ll call her that – is trying to keep a straight face for the camera, but is losing a battle of fighting off a smile; you can see it in her eyes.

I decided on a deep blue dress for the woman because of her brooch which looks to me like Wedgwood and, while many are other colours, the most common is a mid or powder blue with a white or ivory figure in the centre.

The child’s dress and headband-ribbon, I made a cream colour.

The surround – greenery, flowers, and the fence and wall behind, were quite interesting to do. It’s actually quite difficult sometimes to see what is there in a black and white or sepia photo. Even to someone without colour-blindness, reds and greens can look identical in monochrome. So a curled green leaf could be a red flower and what seems like buds could be nothing of the sort.

There are a lot of wild flowers in this photo, but as well as that, there are roses, poppies and some kind of tall daisy. I had the feeling that sticking to traditional red poppies was sensible, and the leaves that go with them are a sort of dusty sage green a lot of the time. The seed pods are sometimes indistinguishable from the unopened buds… it depends so much on direction and, of course, on light.

While there is good light and shadow in this image, it was not shot in bright sunlight so I had to be careful. Sunlight helps to define objects not only because of the strength of light but because of the strongly-cast shadow that occurs. With photos taken on overcast days or when the sun has temporarily gone behind a cloud, there’s more guesswork involved. So I decided that to make up for the inevitable errors in perception, I’d vary the shades of greenery in a fairly specific rather than random manner. So you’ll see what may be patches of the same plant in different shades than they should be.

The brickwork and fence were fun to do, though I had to take a break for a couple of days to be able to see the bits I’d missed and attend to those parts!

The daisies – for a change – gave me problems as I couldn’t decide what sort they were. Were they oxeye daisies? If so, they looked too tall. But then, perspective can seem very skewed and I had a feeling the garden was either on a slope or there were steps up to the woman and child. I looked at other daisies, but eventually decided on oxeye as they are close enough. And curiously, I think it works rather well as the child’s dress and headband add balance. Wouldn’t the photographer have wanted balance in the photo? I think so, and I try to achieve balance in my colourings.






26 thoughts on “Grandmother and Grandchild in garden

  1. I think I could make a case for this child to be the baby of the family — Victorians often had big families — she could even be a “change of life” child born when her mother was in her 40s. The mother could have light auburn or blond hair or have hair like you gave the child. Or she could have been prematurely grey. Life was harder for women in the Victorian era, what with the actual having of the large families (multiple pregnancies) and the strain of caring for that many children and a household besides. My great grandmother had 11 children and buried four husbands (and lost her second daughter to typhoid fever along with her second husband) . I have a photograph of her in her late forties, and she looks 70.

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    1. You may be right, though the original description was just a way for the person to get the item noticed more easily on Ebay which is where I bought it. Most of the sellers don’t have any actual information, unless it is somewhere on the card or photo itself and there’s nothing on this one about the specific relationship. There is a name mentioned. On the back of the card it says “To wish you and Mary a Happy Christmas – and good fortunes in the new year” then on the right of the card’s back it says “Taken in my garden. Dec 1912, 3 Adelaide Terrace.”
      Yes, I know about the large families of the time – my gt-grandmother had a huge family (and also a couple of losses) and there were others earlier in both sides of my family who had a lot of children per family. It was the way in those days.


  2. It came out very nicely! you’ve really brought a moment in 1912 to life. And I enjoyed reading the description of your thought process, too, as a photo-detective and artist. A nice rustic-looking garden and the people look relaxed and happy.
    Your photo also reminded me of an excellent book, called “1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War” and in many ways, it was such a wonderful time, already “modern” in many ways, and for millions of people, a terrific, exciting time to be alive.

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    1. I’ll have to look for that book, thanks for mentioning it. My dad was born around then and his parents came over to the UK (from Eastern Europe) a few years before so I’m interested in the period. So much was happening in those earlier years that is often discounted because of WW1 that came soon after, but there was such a change in culture and fashions, not to mention the world outside people’s personal lives, and people were beginning to feel a little freer.

      Ah – photo detective. There is so much research I need to do that’s been neglected recently because of my techno-woes. Thanks, Robert.

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      1. I don’t always run around recommending books, but that one is really neat. It’s also sad, because things were going so well in many ways, and a lot of people were thinking of themselves as Europeans, rather than being obsessed with a particular nationality and ancient grudges.
        I think your pictures would work beautifully with a book like that, to help remind people that these eras were once very much “The Present”!

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    1. Yes, in this case it most certainly does, because of the foliage – this one of the things that I think is very often lost in a monochrome photo – the main subject or subjects of the photo jump out as the camera’s focussed on them, but the rest is often lost to the eye. Thanks, Yvonne.

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  3. What a beautiful job you have done Val – I recently saw some ox-eye daisies that were growing wild and looked pretty much the same as yours. You know I think it could be the mother – she doesn’t really look old enough to be a grand mother in 1912 , especially once you have added life to her face with your colouring. Of course I could be wrong, it’s just my thought. I sit and stare at your work and have no words to describe how impressed I am with every fine detail.

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    1. Mmmm… maybe it is the mother, though, as I said to WOL in an earlier comment, the seller will have just given that description to help sell the card on Ebay, there’s nothing on the front or back of the card to indicate the actual relationship. I’m not sure I’ve seen ox eye daisies in the flesh (or should that be ‘in the petal’?) we have some similar daisies in our garden but they are yellow not white. My worry with this was that they might have looked like outsize lawn daisies! I’m glad the colouring has worked. I’m still battling with my monitor’s colour and some of this photo – even though I know the colouring from the previous monitor I used when I did it – looks too subdued to me. (I’m still battling my techno problems mentioned a post or two back, they seem to go on and on…) Thanks so much.

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  4. Mother or grandmother, it is a lovely revitalization of a rather dark image. I also enjoyed reading about your thought process about the choices you made. One thing you didn’t mention, but which I found very nicely done, was the color of the child’s hair. It works beautifully with the complexion of her skin.

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  5. Google maps lists three Adelaide Terraces in the UK. All in England, one is in Newcastle, one is in Brentford London and the one you’re looking for is probably the one in Blackburn. As far as I can tell, it has a few large houses from the Victorian period. All for the very well-to-do by the look of them. They have very large front gardens and almost certainly have large rear gardens too. I’m posting the link so you can go directly to Bank House, which you will find yourself standing outside. From there you can travel up and down to look at the other properties. Like most terraces, it’s not very long. Love your work, by the way.,-2.49587,3a,75y,323.46h,97.27t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1stROV7s_H4avtx11cWa-Kzw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

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  6. Gorgeous, Val! Love all the detail you did with the garden. Out of curiosity, how many hours does an image like this one take you? I get a sense that it’s quite the task to work on those tiny details and get them just right. 🙂

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    1. This one did take a long time, particularly the foliage. I can’t tell you exactly how many hours as I split this one up over a period of several days and then took a break and continued a week or two later! The most difficult thing for me was discerning the stems of the plants from the brickwork of the back wall to the middle right (and I think it shows, but it might not be as noticeable to anyone else). Thanks, Sarah.

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        1. Oh, that’s a great idea, Annie! (And actually, it gives me the shivers to think I might be able to reunite this photo with its family.) One of these days I have a post that I’ve got to write about some photos I bought a year or two ago… you might be able to help me with those too, if you fancy.

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